Raw data from survey of domestic abuse victims now co-parenting with abuser

I have been collecting data with a simple Google survey posted on Twitter, here and divorcedmoms.com about domestic abuse and child custody.

After a few weeks on social media, here the results from 33 anonymous responders. I have removed page 14 of the results in order to protect the identity of a few responders who volunteered their names and emails.

Feel free to comment if you would like more information or please, take the survey yourself. It’s only 31, quick questions.

Thank you to those who have already taken it.

Pages 1-13

Domestic abuse & child custody cases without names- Google Forms

Pages 15-17

Domestic abuse & child custody cases pages 14-17 – Google Forms

 

Victims can learn to understand the play field

Aug. 12, 2013 _ I spent some time this weekend with a friend who is divorcing an emotional abuser and she wanted some advice in putting in writing their parenting plan for their 5-year-old daughter.

As I helped her navigate this complicated form, I was able to relive my journey through family court and the fear and ignorance I had back when I believed the court system would protect myself and my children from an abuser.

Standing in the shower this morning, I realized there was something here worth sharing with all those other women trying to move through family court with an abuser.

(Just a quick disclaimer: I know that don’t all abusers are men, some are women. And I know that all state courts are not the same. My journey was in Florida and it is important to understand your own state laws.)

The first thing to know is that despite any police report or other evidence of abuse, family court will begin the case and hope to stay in a place that believes that both parents are equally entitled to raise the children and that both parents have the same rights to decide how the children are raise.

That is very important to understand. No matter how much you were abused, the family court in Florida wants to believe a falsehood: That a wife abuser can be a good father.

Take a minute to yell about how stupid that sounds and sucks, and then move on. Because, you can’t change that premise, no matter how wrong you believe it to be.

The next part of that premise, is that the family court doesn’t believe that a child should spend more time with the mother than the abusive father. In fact, the family court sort of believes that the fathers in this state have been unfairly treated by mothers and their attorney’s, so they might be bias to cutting them some slack and giving them more importance.

The family court also assumes that mothers are more likely to fight irrationally for control of their babies, like a mother bear who protects her cubs, and that is not necessarily a good thing for the kids. In other words, the court is likely to assume that you are crazy, hypersensitive and unreasonable in protecting your children. They are going to assume that you think your kids are in danger being with your ex because you are an over zealous mother rather than a victim of unthinkable trauma.

And these are the reasons why you need to get it together and in an hurry for court. Because we know that those assumptions are not correct here. Just read through my blog to find one story about just how an abusive man can hurt his kids.

Nevertheless, you have two choices here:

1. Accept this and learn to work within the system or

2. Fight very hard to prove that your ex is dangerous (and by the way, courts, judges, parent coordinators, mediators and even your own attorney do not want you to do this.)

If you choice number 2, you better have a boatload of proof and lots and lots of evidence that your ex has hurt your child in the past. You will also need a lot of money to pay a willing attorney. If you don’t, and really even if you do, the courts aren’t going to like it at all and that means that they are going to question your parenting for having done it.

Courts want to believe that you are willing to finally work with the father of the child now that you are out of the trauma of the marriage.

I know, it is ass-backwards and doesn’t make any sense to a good mother, nor is it easy. And, choice 1 is completely different than choice 2. If you try to go down the choice 1 route, and then switch to choice 2, you look like a liar. If you stay in choice 2, you look crazy.

The only good news is that if you start down choice 2, let’s say with your attorney, switching to choice 1 makes you look like someone who has learned and is willing to accept her situation in the eyes of the court.

Please don’t misunderstand me … this pisses me off to no end. I think the legal system is very flawed and rewards lying and manipulations and doesn’t really deal with what is best for the children, but I learned to accept this and that helped me heal from the trauma and do my best in court.

Abused mothers have a very narrow road to walk through family court and so much is at stake. And my biggest problem with this system is that it further traumatized an abuse victims. Victims have been through hell and are not given a chance to heal and process what has happened to them at the hands of their loved one.

And then, they are thrown into an arena that completely dismisses the abuse, not because they don’t believe them or want to be fair, but because they don’t care. How depressing is that.

Instead abused mothers have to enter court with their abusers and have to wipe away the trauma without help and suddenly pretend that the co-parent on the other side of the room isn’t the guy that beat them senseless. Now that is crazy-making.

And if the mom tries to protect herself from that ass who beat her by keeping distance, she is treated as through she is putting her needs over her child’s.

So, what to do. Learn as quickly as you can to accept it so you can protect your child. It took me therapy, friends and a good lawyer to do get centered enough to handle the court process.

I will write later about how I handled the court system. But, the best thing to do is to find someone who can help you process the unfairness of all of this, because you need to be at your emotional best when facing this process. Good luck and bless you in your efforts.

 

 

Add your voice

What will stop DV

June 30, 2013_ After years of surviving the trauma of domestic abuse, both emotional and physical, and learning to manage the hurt, damage and pain of my walk being attached to a domestic abuser, I stand today wishing there was a way to make it all stop, for me and for every other victim of this senseless abuse.

Often, when my ex is in the throws of pulling us over the cliff of abuse, I feel a panicked instinct to hold back myself, my kids even my ex from going over the cliff of destruction that abuse causes everyone. My ex makes choices in the moment of his life and doesn’t always think through to the end of how his actions will effect others or even himself.

Abusers, and my ex is not an exception, don’t understand how to live in relationships with others so they watch others and play at being a role. Sometimes, when they have learned well, they can mimic a healthy relationship for a while. My ex has learned how to be a good employee for example and he does this “work” because he wants a certain outcome for himself _ the job that gives him positive feedback. He eats up two forms of feedback 1. Adoration and 2. Fear. That is what he is always seeking from the relationships in his life. Those in his orbit must give him one or the other or both. If they don’t, then he will work to get them to or he will eventually dump them and move on.

I work very hard to provide neither for my ex because I believe today that it is best for all of us, my children, him, his wife, if I am not in his orbit at all. Unfortunately, because of our children, I still am no matter what I do. So, I can never totally leave.

This journey is difficult and taxing on me and my kids. I am emotionally re-traumatized all the time because I care for the well-being of my children. I care that my ex will take us all over the cliff again and again for no good reason. When my ex sued me for custody of two teen-age children, I knew that he was making a horrible decision for himself and not just me and the kids.

I knew that he would not win all that he sought. I knew that had he spoken to me first about what he wanted, I would have come to a form of agreement. I knew that he would have to pay a boat load of money and I knew that the kids would resent the court order that would then dictate their lives. I knew that custody suits don’t leave anyone without scars and I knew that it was a horrible parenting decision to do it.

I also knew that the case would drag on for months and would end sometime in my oldest son’s 17th year, so close to 18th birthday when legal custody dissolves.

To me, the custody battle was a pointless, damaging jump over the cliff that would hurt all of us deeply.

I believe that to my ex-husband, it was an opportunity to dominate me causing me to fear him and it was an opportunity that would be lost with my child’s 18th birthday. He had to act fast in order to capitalize on our child’s minor age and get the last drop of abuse that he could out of me over this.

My ex also found a way to dominate another human being legally and that matters a lot to him. The one thing that kept him from abusing me physically or any other way, was if someone found out that he was breaking a taboo and stained his image. Abusers, and specifically narcissistic personality disorder abusers, link every choice they make back to their own thoughts on how they think others perceive them.

For a very long time, my ex didn’t want anyone to know that he would hit me. He believed that if he was labeled an abuser, he would loose his status in his society. He saw professional football players, many who he wrote about as an NFL national sports writer, get beat up in the press for their abuses of their girlfriends and wives, so he was afraid of that happening to him. He also was able to read that in polite circles, DV didn’t happen. So he didn’t want to be outed.

I didn’t want it outed either. First because I was trying to keep a fantasy going that we could be happy. Then, because I didn’t want my children to have a bad childhood. Until, I finally wised up and realized that silence is what keeps DV going.

In the quiet, hidden corners of relationships, abuse happens everyday because abusers know completely that they can get away with it … that it won’t sink their reputations.

My ex eventually told his new wife that he hit me, but he did it through tears of regret and his own victimization. Of course, I wasn’t there, but between court testimony and his own story he told me, he explained, I’m sure very effectively that he was essentially abused by me and found himself with no good choice but to hit.

An I imagine, because I’ve been there, that his wife is holding onto the fantasy that her husband is not a monster who would hit his wife.

And when his wife bought into the idea that I was evil, of course she would deem me an unfit mother and wonder why my ex wouldn’t want to protect his children from me with a custody fight. Of course, I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of their lives, but I did hear some pretty unbelievable spin during a court case and heard my ex’s wife speak through clenched teeth about my short-comings as a mom and ex-wife.

And of course, the reason why my ex was able to push and push a custody battle for teen-agers who had lived quiet well and happily for five years post divorce is because he could. Lawyers don’t care about the damage the suit would do to my children. Judges don’t question why a case has been filed even a tenth more than they just judge the allegations. But worse, friends and family don’t want to get involved in the dirty laundry of others.

Most people struggle with their own dramas that they don’t want to engage in others. It is a sad state of our society that we all don’t want to help each other out more. It is so easy to just sit and judge from the position of well, I may think what I think with limited informations, but I don’t want to engage.

As a victim of domestic trauma, I can’t tell you how little I am asked about it. I know it is because people don’t feel that it is an acceptable subject to discuss for any of us. I wish I could tell them, that I want to talk about it. It is helpful to do so and helps me feel it instead of bury it, where it continues to do damage.

I wish people would look at my ex and tell him to his face to stop hurting his ex-wife and children. If they did and didn’t buy any of his bullshit spin, then he would stop abusing. It really is that simple. Abusers abuse because they can. The day they will stop is the day that it because socially unacceptable to abuse …. even more than the legal status of abuse.

The day my ex will stop abusing me and his children will come when he is shunned by people, not even everyone, but by most for doing it. For every person that believes that giving him the benefit of the doubt is helpful, he grows stronger in his belief that he can get away with this very unhealthy coping skill. And that is all that it is for him, when he is struggling emotionally for whatever reason, dominating someone makes him feel better.

If you want to help in the fight to stop domestic abuse, then start by letting the abuser know that it is not OK with you how he chooses to cope with his pain.

Thank you to all who have helped me

Dec. 4, 2011 _ Today, I am thankful in more than words can express for the love, support, understanding, and time that so many of my family and friends have given me in my efforts to handle an abusive ex-husband and co-parent. There is no way that I could have moved forward and not ended up in a ball on the floor without these people’s kinds words, prayers, and willingness to listen.

It is not easy to talk about abuse. In fact, it is very hard, embarrassing, humiliating, shameful, guilt-inducing, and so on. I struggle with it every time I begin the dialog. But, after I have started talking, it flows out of me like a river. I held it in for so long, that when the flood gate opens, it spills out.

There are so many people who have been there to listen. This is my friend, the social worker, who knew both my ex and me and spent many a night hanging out with us. In fact, for a very short time, she even lived with us. She never saw a second of the abuse, but her instant support when I finally told her what had been going on was unprecedented and so valuable to me.

My sister has been there to listen to so many stories, heart-breaking tales about what had been happening in my life when I was married, and how the abuse continues after divorce. She takes care of my heart like a mother and understands my ex like no one else I know. She keeps the anger for me that I know I have toward him, but attempt to put away so that I can co-parent with him. She doesn’t have the same duty, so she will defend me with zeal whenever I need it.

My step-mother has listened to me over and over vent about the latest infraction or abusive situation. She gives me the perspective that only a 70-something woman who has had children, marriage, and divorce, can have. She gives me the advice of forgiveness and shows me how to move on. But more than anything, she gives me time.

I have another friend, who has had a lousy year of personal struggles that are so taxing and painful, and yet, she will offer sound advice to me and has never once told me that “life could be worse.” She hangs in there and helps me face the trials and tribulations of my forced involvement with my ex.

Then there is my lawyer friends, two women in fact, who have given me so much advice about how to face a custody suit, an abuser, and someone who is willing to see me fall. Those women have given me more free advice than could be understood. No business manager would ever allow that. And yet, they did so with love, and patiences, even when I really haven’t felt rational.

My sister-in-law spent many hours on the phone talking through the issues at hand and helping me sort through the logic or lack there of, of my ex’s actions. Her husband, my brother, who often didn’t know what to do gave me his love straight up instead.

My dad, who was so confused by ex’s actions and abuse, struggled almost as much as I did in trying to understand, has stayed by my side and I will love him for that.

My cousins and aunt have circled the wagons at a level that didn’t fit with my own self-worth. These are people who knew nothing of the abuse my ex was doling out, accepted him with open arms into our family because I asked them to, and then, did not look at me with any judgment when I told them why I was leaving this man. They accepted the situation and new reality quickly, with support and love toward me and my children and offered themselves in anyway that they could.

My dear friend who was so shocked to learn of my divorce that it rocked her world. She liked my ex and she knew my kids well. But, when she found out why I left, she rallied around me with such support. She will leave me 3 minute voicemails that are so natural and supportive that I find myself talking back to the recording of her voice.

There is my best friend from high school, who after all these years have come to my emotional support.

And so, so many more people that can’t fit into this blog today. I truly really wish there was a way that I could thank people who have been there.

The only way that I can is to help others in their name and by following their example of support.